Formulas: How (Not?) to Write A Bestseller

I’ve read a lot of books on how to write the ideal novel, and at this point I’m even trying to write one myself. There are many ways writers try to share their wisdom, and most of it comes off as either anecdotal or formulaic. There are perks and problems with both. While anecdotal books such as Stephen King’s On Writing give some fun and witty insights into the life of some of your favorite authors and their own struggles with something we can all relate to, it’s hard to apply those stories to your own life and your own book.

I’m a bigger fan of the formulaic method, with checklists, do’s and don’ts, and exercises that I can try out with my own characters in my own stories. But there are a lot of people who have understandable problems with this. Blake Snyder’s book Save The Cat! took the screenwriting world by storm but has led to many predictable and unimaginative movies that can all be tracked down to a single formula.

As I’m currently working on my own Finish That Novel! book, I’ve had to confront myself about my own writing method and formulas I’ve worked out or read about. I want the book to be applicable and helpful… but I don’t want to harm your writing in the process. Is there any happy medium when telling others how to write, or accepting novelling advice?

One thing I know for sure is that for me, every book has been a dramatically different experience. The children’s book I wrote a couple months ago was easy as anything, and I had no trouble pumping out 2-3000 dedicated words a day, but the novel I’m co-writing with my husband has been a painstakingly slow and deliberate process. I’ve outlined carefully, and I’ve written by the seat of my pants. Good stuff has come from each. So have total bombs. In short, I believe that there is no one way to guarantee you an easy-to-write, awesome novelIt’s not going to happen, so you can stop looking.

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t still profit from what others have to say. In my resources section on this site I have several books listed that I honestly think can help you with writing and finishing your novel, and I believe it. But be flexible with yourself. Try different things, and be honest about what works for you and what doesn’t. I can speak only for myself when I share tips on writing. I know I can never settle into a routine very long for anything, but my husband needs to write late at night in a dim room with loud music and a drink at hand.

Don’t be upset if something doesn’t work for you. The only thing that matters is that you get your book done, and that you get it done well. Write. Re-write. Fix it up. Be that writer. And finish that novel.

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